By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com May 11 2012 6:21 PM ET
Argentina’s Senate has overwhelmingly passed a sweeping transgender rights bill, and President Cristina Fernandez is expected to sign it into law.
The measure, passed Wednesday, allows people whose gender identity does not match their physical characteristics to change their name and gender marker on public documents without having undergone gender-reassignment surgery and without approval from a doctor or judge, the Associated Press reports. It also assures that those who want surgery or hormone therapy will have insurance coverage for it with no extra premium, through both public and private plans.
The vote was 55-0, with one senator abstaining and more than a dozen declaring themselves absent.
The law will give transgender people in Argentina more freedom than they have in many U.S. states, some of which require proof of surgery for changing the gender marker on, for instance, a driver’s license. “This gives the individual an extraordinary amount of authority for how they want to live,” Stanford University professor Katrina Karkazis, who has written extensively on issues of gender identity, told the AP. “It’s really incredible.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality notes in a blog post that the law “reflects the hard work of trans and LGBT advocates in Argentina as well as the growing trend of recognition for trans people’s identities and medical needs internationally.” In 2009, Uruguay adopted a similarly broad gender identity law.
Argentina has been a pioneer for LGBT rights in its region in other ways, two years ago becoming the first Latin American nation to approve same-sex marriage.